ORINDA (KPIX 5) – An East Bay man will be allowed to stay with his husband and avoid deportation, after the U.S. Supreme Court struck down the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) this week.

Alfonso Garcia and Brian Willingham told KPIX 5 they can finally smile after two years of uncertainties and nightmares.

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“I couldn’t stop smiling. I had tired smiling muscles by the end of the day,” Willingham said.

Garcia had been facing deportation to Mexico. But after the high court struck down DOMA, he can get a Green Card and stay in the country with his husband.

“We’re so happy, just the fact that the government can finally say your marriage is not different than any other,” Garcia said.

Immigration troubles for Garcia began in 2011, around the same time they got married in New York. Officers stopped him for a traffic violation, leading to the discovery of his immigration status. Garcia’s parents had brought him to the United States when he was 14 years old.

“They actually picked up Alfonso and held him in a detention center for three weeks,” Willingham recalled.

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“It was definitely really hard not knowing and being always in the limbo,” Garcia said.

For two years, the couple tried every method to keep Garcia in the U.S., only to be shot down. Their attorney told them the only hope would be a repeal of the Defense of Marriage Act.

Because of DOMA, immigration officials denied Brian’s petition for a green card for Alfonso. The officials said in a letter, “your spouse is not a person of the opposite sex. Therefore, under the DOMA, your petition must be denied.”

Wednesday’s ruling means instead of watching over their shoulders, the pair can now plan ahead.

“It means the world to us, because now we can just move on with our lives,” Garcia said.

“This is the tipping point that will bring about full equality for gay and lesbian couples,” Willingham said.

The Supreme Court’s decision impacts at least 40,000 same-sex couples who will also get the same reprieve. Half of the couples live in California.

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